What’s Ashley Reading?: Above the Bay of Angels

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

First line: If Helen Barton hadn’t stepped out in front of an omnibus, I might still be sweeping floors and lighting fires at an ostentatious house in St. John’s Wood.

Summary: Bella Waverly was raised by a disinherited member of the aristocracy. She was taught to speak well and have good manners. However, when they fall on hard times she is forced to work as a servant in the home of a wealthy Londoner. Then one day she witnesses the death of a young woman with a letter of introduction to work in the Buckingham Palace kitchens. Taking on a new name she enters a new world and finds that life as a cook is maybe what she has been looking for her whole life.

My Thoughts: I first heard about this book when I went to an author event at Watermark Books in Wichita. My mother is a huge fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series. When Ms. Bowen started telling us about her new stand-alone book I was immediately interested. I love the PBS show Victoria so this sounded like my cup of tea.

I found the book to be a light and quick read. It was a mixture between historical fiction and mystery. The first 80% were surrounding Bella and her work in the kitchens but then disaster strikes in the royal family and a mystery appears. I loved how the food took center stage though. I was constantly Googling the items to see what they were. I ate a lot while reading this because everything sounded so good.

Then there is the location. I have never been the south of France but it sounds like a magical place. The Hotel Excelsior Regina is still standing but has been converted to apartments. I would love to visit and see the hotel that was built for Queen Victoria.

And the author brings in one of the most intriguing characters from the time period and Queen Victoria’s reign, “the Munshi”, Abdul Karim. He was the Indian servant and advisor to the queen. But he was disliked by many of her family and staff. Very little was known of him until the last 10 years when his journals came to light. If you want to get a more sympathetic and dramatic view into his story then try the movie Victoria and Abdul. I just rewatched it after finishing the book and it was a lovely story.

FYI: This is a perfect summer read. It is light and fun but with a little intrigue.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Basil of Baker Street

Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus

First line: The mystery of the missing twins could never have been solved by an ordinary detective.

Summary: Living in the cellar of 221B Baker Street is the legendary mouse detective, Basil. He and his companion, both admirers of the famous Sherlock Holmes, spend their time solving mysteries in the mouse world. When two young mice twins disappear it is Basil that the community turns to. As he searches for clues he discovers that it is none other than the Terrible Three. With his faithful companion by his side the travel to the English shore to find and return the missing twins.

My Thoughts: Summer reading at the library started this week! It is always a busy and fun time here at the library. To start off the summer I picked a children’s book for my review.

This is the first story in The Great Mouse Detective series by Eve Titus. It was the inspiration for the movie of the same name by Disney. And also happens to be one of my favorite Disney movies. It was a cute story and lots of fun for young readers. It will definitely be a gateway for kids into the world of Sherlock Holmes. I liked that the book had illustrations. The author even gives a list of characters at the beginning of the book. I think this will appeal to younger readers. I would definitely recommend this to young patrons looking for a good and clean mystery.

FYI: Originally written in 1958.

*This is my pick for category #4 (A speed read (less than 100 pages)) for the ReadICT challenge.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Look-Alike

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

First line: Sienna Scott nearly tripped over the body.

Summary: Sienna Scott finds the body of a young woman while walking home in a snowstorm from a study session. As she looks at the victim she realizes that the girl has a resemblance to her. Was she the intended victim? Or is she seeing things that are not there, like her mother? Her father decides to send her away to London to get her away from her mother’s delusions and the aftermath of the murder.

When she returns home she finds that life in Tranquility Bluffs has changed since she last lived here. But she is more shocked by the state her mother is in. With Sienna’s return her mother spirals as she worries that with her being home “they” will come for her. It does not help that the police have reopened the case of the murder that Sienna stumbled upon. Then strange calls and white unidentified vans driving by lead Sienna to believe that the killer is back and try to finish what they started years earlier.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed Spindler’s newest thriller. It has several twists that throw the reader off but also hint at the ending. I had several different theories as I read but nothing that I was absolutely sure about. I liked Sienna’s mother. Having a character with paranoia is a good tool to change the reader’s perceptions as the story progresses. It definitely did affect mine.

This is not an overly complicated book or something mind blowing but it was just a lot of fun! I have recommended Spindler to readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries. They do not disappoint and make for a fast read.

FYI: Check out The Other Girl by Erica Spindler as well.

Anni’s Book Pick: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

First Line: In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in The Times.

Summary: First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. A famous nursery rhyme is framed and hung in every room of the mansion:

“Ten little boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there then there were seven. Seven little boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in half and then there were six. Six little boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five. Five little boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four. Four little boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three. Three little boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two. Two little boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one. One little boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.”

When they realize that murders are occurring as described in the rhyme, terror mounts. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. Who has choreographed this dastardly scheme? And who will be left to tell the tale? Only the dead are above suspicion. (Book summary from www.goodreads.com)

My Thoughts: This thrilling and ingenious story written by Christie kept me on the edge of my chair all the way through to the end. I thought this book was mystery at its finest. The lack of spoilers and abundance of conundrum was exciting and intriguing at the same time. I think this is one of Agatha Christie’s best novels by far. In this book I could always expect a drastic turn of events, that would have me reading to the last page. Agatha Christie really outdid herself with this amazing mystery

FYI: There are a few gruesome scenes in this book.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Eight Perfect Murders

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

First line: The front door opened, and I heard the stamp of the FBI agent’s feet on the doormat.

Summary: On a snowy morning Malcolm Kershaw gets a call from an FBI agent asking about a list of his favorite fictional murders he wrote years ago on his bookstores blog. What does an old blog post have to do with a string of recent murders? According to Gwen, the FBI agent, it appears that someone is using this list to commit their own murders. Malcolm starts doing his own search into the suspects. Who are they and how are they connected to him? Sometimes life can be stranger than fiction.

My Thoughts: While reading this I found myself comparing it to The Woman in the Window. I don’t think it had much to do with the actual mystery but more with the books/movies recommended by the narrator. I even put holds on several of the movies and looked for copies of the mystery novels mentioned.

I love how the author calls out how so many thrillers are trying to follow the unreliable narrator like in Gone Girl. It has become a mystery trope but not one that is truly new. However, we still continue to read them because they are just so much fun. I think Malcolm though is not an unreliable narrator. He is very upfront about things but he omits some stuff as well until the end.

This was a fun fast paced journey through snowy Boston. I kept trying to figure out the twist. I can honestly say I did not consider how it would end. But he even leaves us wondering if the conclusion is 100% true. This is my first Peter Swanson novel and I think I will read more in the future.

FYI: Be prepared to add old mystery novels to your TBR list.

*This is my pick for category #1 (A book with a number in the title) for the ReadICT challenge.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: I Found You

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

First line: Alice Lake lives in a house by the sea.

Summary: When Alice notices a man sitting on the beach behind her house in the rain she wonders what he could be doing there but decides not to get involved. Several hours later he is still sitting there. When she takes out a coat to the man she starts to talk to him and learns that he has lost his memory. With no idea who he is or how he ended up on the beach, Alice invites him to stay in her guest house for the night.

Lily Monrose has been married for three weeks. Her husband loves her very much but one night he does not come home. The police look into who he is and where he might have gone. As they search they discover that her husband, Carl Monrose does not exist. Lily is determined to find her husband and get some answers.

My Thoughts: I enjoy everything I have read by Lisa Jewell. Her books have a fun mystery with twists and turns. The story always moves along quickly with intriguing characters and situations. However, I was a little disappointed in this one. I enjoyed the story but it was really predictable. I kept hoping that the ending would have an OMG moment like her newest books have had but it did not. It wrapped up nicely and everyone ended up “happy”.

I did enjoy the characters and the events of the book. I really liked the flashbacks to 1993. It was dark and disturbing. It was the typical Lisa Jewell. Maybe I need to stick to her newer books rather than trying some of her older ones. But if you like a good story than this is one.

FYI: We have an audio version available on Hoopla.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Ninth House

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

First line: By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it.

Summary: Galaxy “Alex” stern is a freshman at Yale. She grew up in California but got in with a rough crowd as a teenager. She dropped out of school, took drugs and lived with her drug dealing boyfriend. Until one night everyone in her apartment is found dead except for her. She is approached during her hospital stay with the offer of a lifetime, a full ride scholarship to Yale.

However, when she arrives at the prestigious college she learns that her role here is not just academic. Alex is now a part of a society that is tasked with monitoring the activities of the universities secret societies. With her ability to see ghosts she is charged with helping keep the spirits and the rituals in order.

When a local girl is found murdered around the campus Alex believes that the societies may have something to do with it. As she continues to search for more clues to the mysterious death her she finds herself being attacked by the ghosts the walk the town of New Haven.

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since I heard about it. I really enjoyed her young adult series. Bardugo is a master at world building and wit. But as the release day got closer I saw several reviewers I follow giving it low ratings or not finishing the book at all. This started to scare me. Even though there were these negative reviews with lots of trigger warnings I decided to ignore them and judge it for myself. And I am so glad I did!

I started the book as an audio. I liked it and continued listening to it but alternating between it and the physical book. However, I wish that I had read the first few chapters where much of the world building information was. There are eight secret societies with different rituals. There are lots of characters and also time jumps between characters. This got a little confusing. Once I started to read more it smoothed out and got to be quite enjoyable. I found it hard to put down. Alex gives us a glimpse back into her life before Yale and what led her to this point. Darlington shows us what the first few months are like with Alex as the new Virgil.

I believe that my favorite part was when Alex interacted with the ghosts. Some are very listless but others can be very malevolent. I hope that Bardugo gives us more of this in the upcoming books. Even though the main mystery was who killed Tara there is an underlying and more interesting mystery. What happened to Darlington?! Is he alive? Where did he go? Is he coming back? We get left with quite a cliffhanger so I really hope that the next book is not several years in the future!

FYI: This is Bardugo’s adult debut. Her young adult series are The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, The Dregs Duology, and the Nikolai Duology.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife by J. P. Delaney

First line: You’re having that dream again, the one where you and Tim are in Jaipur for Diwali.

Summary: When Abbie wakes up in a hospital bed she has no memory of how she got there. There is a man who tells her she is his wife and that something terrible happened to her five years before. And through his determination and technological advancements he was able to bring her back. She is the prototype for a new technology called CoBots.

As Abbie acclimates to her new life she starts to wonder what happen to the real Abbie. Using Abbie’s memories, old text messages and the built in intuition she follows the clues to find out how and why Abbie disappeared.

My Thoughts: This was a lot of fun. It was modern day science fiction thriller. At the beginning there is a separate narrative by an unknown character who gives us a look into the past and the real Abbie. I was constantly trying to figure out who it was and I never would have guessed. I like the idea of being able to “bring back” someone who has died but it is also a little sad. I know that there is one person I would love to “see” again but this may make it harder too.

So many different scenarios were flying through my head while trying to figure out the ending. There were lots of twists and turns which make it a great psychological thriller.

FYI: Check out Delaney’s other books Believe Me and The Girl Before.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

First line: Ginny gazed up at the building, her feet planted firmly on the sidewalk but her heart as wide and churning as the sea.

Summary: The rules at the Bartholomew are strict. No visitors. You must spend every night in the apartment. And no disturbing the other residents. Jules believes that even though the rules a little ridiculous they are worth the large sum of money she will receive as an apartment sitter. After losing her job, her boyfriend and her apartment she is desperate for a new start.

Shortly after she moves into the apartment she meets a fellow sitter, Ingrid. But when Ingrid mysteriously disappears in the middle of the night, Jules decides to do some digging into why and try to discover what is going on at the Bartholomew. In her research she learns about the dark past of the building and some of its former residents. With this new knowledge she is determined to get out before she meets the same fate as Ingrid.

My Thoughts: Riley Sager has become one of my favorite thriller writers. This is his third book and it was fantastic. The suspense and mystery are perfectly blended. I was easily creeped out in the first couple of chapters. I mean who wouldn’t be tempted by a high paying job as an apartment sitter? But once strange things start happening? Nope. I’m out.

I did find the middle of the story a little slow. It seemed to stretch out a little too much as Jules looks into the residents and the history of the building. I assume that Sager was just trying to give us some more little clues or hinting at the sinister past but it seemed to be rather overdone.

And holy cow! The last few chapters are great! My heart was beating so fast and I could not read fast enough. As I finished it I was on an adrenaline high and had to start another book in order to calm down a bit for bed. Read this. It is worth it.

FYI: Sager’s first two novels, Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied, are just as thrilling.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Last House Guest

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

First line: I almost went back for her.

Summary: Littleport, Maine is a small coastal town that spends half the year catering to the wealthy visitors on summer vacation. The Loman family is the richest and most prominent family in the area. One summer the Loman’s daughter, Sadie develops a friendship with a local girl. They become inseparable. As their friendship grows, Avery is brought on to manage the family’s local rental properties and other business ventures in town. Then one summer everything changes. Sadie is found dead. The police rule it as a suicide but Avery feels like things do not add up. Who could want to hurt Sadie and why?

My Thoughts: This is a perfect read for summer vacations. It is set on a coastal town with beaches, bungalows and bistros. While reading it I desperately wanted to be sitting outside with a cold drink.

Miranda does a great job a spinning a tangled web. The story jumps back and forth between the summer Sadie died and the next one without her. But at the same time we get glimpses farther back into Avery’s past as well. There seemed to be so many possibilities for the ending. I was shocked by the big reveal at the end. The last 50 pages fly by so fast. It was hard to put down.

FYI: My favorite Megan Miranda books is All The Missing Girls. It is fantastic. The story is told in reverse. You would think it would give away so much but it does not. Both of these books are perfect for your summer reading list!